By winning two of the past three 14th Region titles, the Letcher Central Lady Cougars’ program testifies to the strength of the basketball program under the guidance of longtime coach Dickie Adams and his long-serving assistant coaches George “Bumper” Adams and Amy Maggard Kincer.
During this three-year run, Coach Adams’s teams were led by a core group of seven seniors that graduated last June off last year’s 18-11 squad that lost on a last second shot to Johnson Central in the opening round of the Sweet Sixteen last March.
With none of those starters returning, this season’s team will be a work in progress, said Coach Adams.
“This is the most inexperienced group of players coming back that I’ve encountered in my years of coaching,” he said. “The seven seniors that graduated last year had a lot of experience — a lot of big-game experience in bigtime atmospheres. The players returning were on the bench last year, but none of them played any significant amount.”
Coach Adams returns only one player with significant varsity experience, junior guard Shelby Hall, but she is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the regional finals early last March. Adams hopes she will be released to begin practice soon and be ready to play in early January.
Despite the massive graduation loses, the 14th Region coaches ranked the Lady Cougars third in the preseason rankings behind powerhouse Knott County Central and a strong Powell County team.
While acknowledging the respect his program garnered from his fellow coaches this fall, Coach Adams is reluctant to agree with the early season expectations.
“We have a lot of questions that have to be answered and we’ve not answered them in practice,” he said. “Those questions will be answered when we start playing games.”
The Lady Cougars’ first four games are all on the road beginning with a boy/girl doubleheader at Jackson City Friday night with a 7:30 p.m. tip-off. LCC travels to Powell County for a 3:30 p.m. tipoff on Saturday. The team visits Betsy Layne on Monday before ending the road swing at Harlan next Friday (December 11).
The Lady Cougars’ season home opener is against Owsley County on Saturday, December 12 with a 3:30 p.m. scheduled tip-off.
“All four of those teams return a lot of talent and experience so these first few games will be tough for us and will show us where we are and where we need to get to,” said Adams. “We don’t have the same caliber of players coming back, but we do have good size with some athleticism and skills that will take me a while to figure out how best to use them. We’ll have some rough patches, there’s no question, but it’ll be exciting to see these players grow.”
Coach Adams says the challenge will be for the girls to figure out themselves how to play and then figure out how they can play together as a team.
“(The girls) coming up played on the JV team last year and they’re going to have to have different roles on the varsity. They’re going to have to play a little better than they played then,” he said.
Two of Adams’s top eight players — junior Shelby Hall and Alyssa Adams, who sat out last year — are struggling to return from injuries. The team’s lone senior is 5-11 Samantha Tubbs, who will be joined by juniors Destiny Hall, Cameron Kincer, Paige Caudill and Grace Collier along with freshmen Emma Maggard and Alyssa Franklin.